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Friday, May 23, 2014

"Refuting Compromise" — with a Chainsaw

Review of Refuting Compromise written by Dr. Jonathan D. Sarfati
by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

"Refuting Compromise" by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati is a power tool for dealing with theological compromisers like Hugh Ross. It also cuts through old-earth arguments using both science and theology. Very helpful for Christians, and contains valuable information that unbelievers may find useful as well.

The title of this article was inspired by a someone's post. It said to take the title of a book you had read and add, "with a chainsaw". I was just finishing up Refuting Compromise and realized that this addition to the title fit quite well. Perhaps Dr. Sarfati will forgive me for adding to his words and not rebuke me, making me a liar (Proverbs 30.6). But enough of my strange sense of humor.

Refuting Compromise was written to deal with the bad apologetics of Dr. Hugh Ross, a "progressive creationist" (who also calls himself by the odd title of "day-age creationist"), and unfortunately, many people look up to Ross and his "Reasons to Believe" organization. When I purchased this book, it was because I felt that I needed it for reference, even though I had not dealt all that much with Rossites or spent time with Ross' teachings. It turns out that whether or not someone has even heard of Hugh Ross before, there is a great deal of useful material here in science and theology.

Unfortunately, Ross says many things that are incorrect. Also, he tends to attack young earth creationists (YECs). Rossites also join in on the attack (I wrote about an encounter with one in an older article). Some Christians think Ross helps them learn to defend the faith, but they may be humiliated when they encounter people with a better understanding of the subjects than what they learned from his organization. Therefore, this book is written primarily for Christians, but unbelievers who want to examine the science aspects can learn from it as well. Refuting Compromise is not a book of fluff. People who read captioned pictures and short paragraphs on social media will have to get used to doing some actual reading and thinking again.

Something needs to be stated quite clearly here. Atheopaths, anti-creationists and old earth creationists (OECs) have been known to misrepresent biblical creationists by saying that we require belief in a literal six-day creation for salvation. That is definitely untrue. We are not saying that Hugh Ross and other OECs are not Christians, and I am unaware of any major biblical creation science ministry that holds that view. However, I will state that OECs' understanding of Scripture, and commitment to its authority, are in question.

There are twelve chapters that deal with some very in-depth material. Dr. Sarfati is a scientist himself, but also had assistance from other scientists and theologians. Refuting Compromise is supported by a great deal of reference material (for instance, Chapter 5 has 161 notes).

Although I cannot do them justice without making this article excessively long, here are some points in the twelve chapters.

Chapter 1: The Authority of Scripture
For Christians, the authority and sufficiency of Scripture are vital. Dr. Ross has stated that he believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, but he interprets it according to a "framework" and adds that "nature" is a 67th book of Scripture, which equates natural revelation with the special revelation of the written Word of God. From here, Ross uses atheistic interpretations of scientific data and imposes them on the Bible. A very important part of this chapter is an explanation of the "magisterial versus ministerial" use of science.

Chapter 2: The Days of Creation
The previous chapter showed the importance of Scripture over science. Here, we have biblical reasons to believe in literal creation days. This chapter tells why the Hebrew word "yom" (יוֹם) means a literal day in the creation week, and the importance of the structure of the wording about the creation week. Dr. Sarfati cites scholars to support this, and shows some odd theology from Ross who attempts to justify making the days into long periods of time. Possible objections to יוֹם meaning day are dealt with, as are other views of Genesis (such as the "Framework Hypothesis", Genesis simply being a polemic against paganism, and so on). If someone wants to believe that "day" is not meant to be literal, they cannot have biblical, linguistic or scholarly support.

Chapter 3: The History of Interpretation of Genesis 1-11
Hugh Ross and others assert that biblical creationism (or YEC) is a new phenomenon, and not supported by church history. That is false. (Some people may believe this view because of the compromises by the church in matters of evolution and uniformitarianism from the 1800s.) The writings of Ross' sources are examined in detail. He cites several church fathers to support his claims, but they do not support him at all! Dr. Sarfati gives attention to the medieval writer and later conservative exegesis as well.

Chapter 4: The Order of Creation
Quite often, I encounter people who say that evolution and the Bible are not in conflict. However, they seem ignorant of what the Bible actually says, or perhaps they do not believe it. Ross tries to wedge Scripture into "deep time", and some of his statements may cause people to say, "Huh?" One of the biggest stumbling blocks for people who want to harmonize evolution with creation is that there was light, but the sun was not created until the fourth day. (Note for Christians: We do not need the sun for light, and we will not have it at the end, see Revelation 21.23-25.) It is not possible to harmonize evolution and uniformitarianism with the days of creation in Genesis.

Chapter 5: The Big Bang and Astronomy
Similar to harmonizing Genesis with evolution and uniformitarianism, Hugh Ross and others believe that the Big Bang is compatible with the Bible. (Since Ross is an astronomer, it is fitting that Dr. Sarfati gave some in-depth analysis to this.) Many evolutionists assert that the Big Bang is a scientific fact and that it even disproves Genesis. They are actually ignorant of their own belief system, since the Big Bang has serious problems. Evidence for the Big Bang is examined, and people who like the maths will have some exercise if they want it. Scientific problems with the Big Bang and solar system formation are also dealt with.

Chapter 6: The Origin of Death and Suffering
Ross and other compromisers have serious contradictions with Scripture when it comes to death and suffering. Evolutionists cannot account for pain, suffering and death except in a materialistic, pragmatic worldview that is inadequate. The Bible tells us plainly that everything was created "very good", and that death entered when Adam sinned. The idea that Adam's sin only brought spiritual death is covered, as are consequences of the Curse and the Fall. Getting in to the Hebrew, Dr. Sarfati covers the objections of plant death, disease, pathogens and carnivory. This chapter is important for Christians to read because it impacts our apologetics.

Chapter 7: The Created Kinds
One of Hugh Ross' beliefs is an embarrassment to creationists. He believes in the fixity of species; speciation has ceased because God stopped creating. This goes against observable science and has nothing to do with the Bible. More importantly, though, are the biblical "kinds". The definition of "kinds" is often disputed, and atheopaths love to mock it (even though the word "species" did not even exist for thousands of years, and the exact definition of "species" is controversial). This chapter discusses the difference between "species" and "kind", and the various equivocations on definitions of the word "evolution". Mutations and information are covered, as well as a strange "Theory of Speciation" that Ross has proposed. Worse for Ross, "The biblical creation/Fall/Flood/dispersion model would also predict rapid formation of new varieties and even species" (p. 233). If you like to study biology, DNA, genetics and so forth, you should like this chapter a great deal.

Chapter 8: The Global Flood and Noah's Ark
Another Ross view that is compatible with other OECs is that the Genesis Flood was a local event. If a straightforward reading of Scripture is not enough to prove that this is obviously wrong, Dr. Sarfati shows that the Flood was global through the Hebrew text as well as drawing from other scholars. Ironically, some of the scholars that Ross appeals to actually contradict him. Not only does this book give us biblical and historical reasons for believing in the global Flood, but there are scientific reasons as well. Dr. Sarfati examines some of the possible mechanisms for the Flood, and dispenses with some of the "arguments" that Ross has used against it. The pre-Flood word and the Ice Age are also discussed.

Chapter 9: The History of Mankind
We get an outline of history according to the Bible, and an examination of the often-ridiculed genealogies. Ross misrepresent the genealogies and demonstrates his lack of understanding. People attempt to insert gaps in them, but even if they could be reasonably allowed, gaps would not supply huge amounts of time for the age of the mankind. Longevity, the origin of races, "apemen", hominid fossils and more subjects are covered.

Chapter 10: "Biblical" Old-Age Arguments
Many people like Hugh Ross and his disciples attempt amazing eisegesis in their efforts to make the Bible say that the earth is old. Several of the rationalizations in Scripture are covered, and the Hebrew text is examined as well. I have heard it said that if God had wanted to tell us that creation was old, he did a lousy job of it by using "yom" because there are more appropriate long-age words available. Dr. Sarfati has a section on "vast-age" words that could have been used in Genesis 1.

Chapter 11: Science and the Young Earth
Since some people reject the eyewitness account of creation (God's revelation to man in the Bible), "deep time" assumptions can be refuted with their own inconsistent methodology. Scientific evidences for a young earth are explained, and anti-creationist responses are dispatched. These include the earth's magnetic field, helium in the rocks, "salt" in the sea, missing supernova remnants, comets, radiohalos, hemoglobin in dinosaur bones and more are covered. It is interesting that since this book was written, additional scientific discoveries have been found that make several of these arguments even stronger.

Chapter 12: Refuting Old-Earth Arguments
This chapter covers some of the arguments that old earth advocates postulate, and shows how the evidence actually supports a young earth and the Flood when it is understood properly. (I believe it is infuriating to advocates of evolutionism and uniformitarianism to see their own methods not only used against them, but that the evidence best supports a much more recent creation than they want to accept.) We are taught about varves (alternating fine layers in rocks), the idea that there are "too many fossils", biodeposits, fossil forests and others are explained. Radiometric dating is also examined, and how there are key assumptions that must be made. Also, there are inconsistencies in the results of radiometric dating — logically, not all of them can be right. Naturally, there are sections of this chapter that have a great deal of mathematics.

I believe that Dr. Sarfati was fair to Hugh Ross, and gave him credit when he had accurate statements. Unfortunately, much of what Ross, OECs in general and evolutionists cling to is by faith, not by evidence or Scripture. While writing this review, I sent Dr. Sarfati a message and asked if Ross had given any kind of response other than the weak brush-off that he did some years back. Dr. Sarfati said no, and referred me to "False Claims of Hugh Ross".

Refuting Compromise is an important book for understanding biblical creation and dealing with both science and Scripture to counter compromisers and scoffers. Dr. Jonathan Sarfati refutes compromise with a chainsaw; this book is a power tool. As I indicated earlier, it is not a piece of fluff. I do not believe many people will understand all of it (I certainly did not), but there is a wealth of material available to educate and edify the Christian, and to inform the honest inquirer. There are indices and the chapters have subheadings, so it will be something you can take off the shelf for reference.  My only regret is that Dr. Sarfati is not close by so I can get it autographed.

Disclosure: None. I purchased this book myself, and Dr. Sarfati did not know I was writing a review until I told him about it after it was finished. Addendum: Just a few hours after this was published, Dr. Sarfati informed me that CMI had linked to this review.

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